[opendtv] Re: Are ATSC Stations Going Off The Air?

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2013 11:16:47 -0400

On Oct 14, 2013, at 5:26 PM, "Manfredi, Albert E" 
<albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> No doubt, you're referring to the iPhone. Which only "changed" things, in 
> this respect, by adding the Apple walled garden to the cellco walled garden. 
> In which case, Apple would continue to have no interest in allowing broadcast 
> TV on their phones. Much better to force the faithful to use iTunes for this.

Yes, I was referring to the fact that the Apple/AT&T deal fundamentally changed 
who is in control of the devices that attach to cellular networks, both in the 
U.S. and around the world. BUT, Apple was not the sole beneficiary. 

It did not take long for Google to respond with Android, which in turn has 
allowed a large number of mobile device manufacturers to get into the game. And 
now,  MicroNokia is trying to get into the game as well. Today, the telcos are 
selling three services: Voice, Data, and text messaging. And text messaging is 
rapidly becoming just another "Data App."

Apple's iTunes and App Store are no more walled gardens than the equivalents 
from Google, Amazon, et al. Apple does curate the App Store, which in turn 
leads to the oft stated opinion that the Apple system is closed (or a walled 
garden). But most of the folks who use iTunes and the App Store like the 
additional security that curation provides. Not unlike Windows, the vast 
majority of "exploits" are targeted at Android (above 90%). 

Rather than argue this point, consider what was happening before 2007. The 
human interface to feature phones SUCKED. Blackberry caught on because it 
leveraged instant messaging and e-mail for corporate clients; but web browsing 
sucked, and there were no apps. The telcos tried to offer add on subscription 
services, but they had little control over the handset makers to support these 
services, so you typically had to buy a phone that was designed for one of 
their services (VCast and FloTV are good examples. 

So ask yourself this question. Did the telcos have the ability to develop the 
smartphone, an OS to run it, and an open ecosystem for third party app 

The reality today is that there are at least three viable platforms for App 
developers, who are making billion$ off of the Apps they develop; and all of 
the most desirable apps are available on iOS and Android, while Windows Phone 
plays catch-up.

Do you seriously believe that the telcos could have done this?

As for Apple allowing LTE Broadcast on their phones, I believe you are looking 
at this the wrong way. First, Apple has no problem supporting competitors to 
iTunes. There are Apps for Netflix, Hulu, Hulu Plus, most of the Broadcast 
networks, Pandora, Spotify, The Kindle Reader, and many, many more. Apple has 
deals for some of this content via iTunes, but they do not block free or 
subscription based alternatives.

To be fair, Apple is usually not the first to the party. For example, they were 
one of the last device manufacturers to support LTE, and they appear to be 
developing an alternative to NFC. So Apple is not likely to show an interest in 
Broadcast LTE until it is a commercial reality. I see no reason why they would 
not support it, if implemented in a manner that fully leverages the LTE 
standards. Apple already provides access to most Network TV programming, either 
via rental from the iTunes store, or third party Apps. But they do not provide 
much in the way of live streaming content - this is left to the App developers 
and the owners of this content.

Bottom line, if Broadcasters are willing to invest in the Broadcast LTE 
infrastructure, the highly competitive mobile device market will support it, as 
it adds nothing to the cost of the device.

> Perhaps, just like there's nothing to stop the tablet from supporting DVB-T2 
> or ATSC MH.

Apples and oranges. The LTE support is already there, and you can be certain 
that Qualcomm and others will add support for any new frequency bands.

DVB-T2 and ATSC M/H require another chipset, and they are both power hungry, 
limiting the amount of viewing time on a battery charge. But more important, 
without compelling content there is no reason to encumber a device with these 

> If the tablet does not subscribe to a cellco network, so that the cellco 
> network gets nothing for the broadcast material, then it makes sense for the 
> broadcasters to create as efficient a broadcast stream as possible, for THEIR 
> OWN benefit. And that's not going to be LTE overlay. Not unless the 
> broadcasters have ideas of branching out into ISPs of some type or other, 
> themselves.

This is nonsense. LTE Broadcast has already been demonstrated to be an 
efficient way to deliver content to mobile devices that ALREADY support the 
critical hardware and software needed for reception. All that is needed is an 
applications layer - an App for the broadcaster(s). This can be a single app 
for all local broadcasts, based on a new ATSC standard, or individual apps for 
each station; it might even be a component of the Apps already available from 
the broadcast networks, using geo-location to determine how to access the local 
network affiliate. 

Broadcasters are not in the position to compete in the ISP business, as this 
would require overbuilding the telco networks, and far more spectrum that is 
available in any market. Broadcasters CAN leverage existing wired and wireless 
ISP services to handle the back channel requirements, just as every other App 
does today.

> AND, let's not forget something else we've been over countless times, there 
> is very limited demand for real-time *broadcast* to mobile devices. Sports, 
> maybe some news and weather. That's it. Hardly enough, in hours/week, to 
> justify the broadcasters wanting to switch to a more expensive LTE overlay 
> network. Mobile users have proven that they can't be tied to down to lengthy 
> programs on someone else's schedule.

How can you measure demand for a service that does not exist today?

What you CAN measure is the success of the Apps that are delivering content 
that is exclusive to the MVPDs for their subscribers. You are not considering 
the cost and use cases in your analysis. Clearly smartphones are not an ideal 
second screen, but they are more than adequate when you have no other 
alternative. I have used my iPhone to follow sporting events for years when I 
am away from home. At first all I could do was monitor scores on appropriate 
websites. Then they started doing "data" play by play. Now I can actually watch 
the event. The major problem with the current situation is that when I am using 
the telco LTE network I am burning through my monthly data allocation.

You are completely missing the fact that Broadcast LTE can replace ATSC-1 for 
fixed receivers and tablets as well. I have no problem watching feature length 
content on my iPad; I did not buy the version with LTE, as WiFi is almost 
always available in the locations where I use my tablet. If Broadcast LTE were 
available I would buy a tablet that supports it, and turn on the telco data 
network when traveling.

>> Sorry, Craig, but you state this without proof. My bet is, the cost issue is 
>> noise level. Demand, on the other hand, is another issue, which also applies 
>> to this LTE overlay idea.

In a sense we agree. Without a compelling reason to add the chip there is no 
reason to spend even a penny. IF broadcasters decide to move to Broadcast LTE 
and there is compelling content, there is no reason not to support it, as it 
will not add cost to any device that supports LTE.

> Sorry again, Craig, but I don't like playing this game. I showed you the 
> numbers, I gave you the reference, I did the simple arithmetic for you. If 
> you want b/s/Hz to be more than, say, 1 b/s/Hz, and even for that, you have 
> to create a denser mesh than you seem willing to to accept, for LTE. So, we 
> go through all of this, then you forget a few months later, and then you're 
> back to your old arguments and incorrect assumptions, and expect me to 
> rehash. No, sorry.

I believe your assumption may be flawed. There are nowhere near 800 cell towers 
in the Washington DC area, but there are more than 155,000 cellular antennas 
registered in the FCC database. Obviously, many are microcells for buildings 
and the Metro. 

What I do know is that LTE works in Washington DC. ATSC does not work in many 
areas. I have little reason to believe that LTE Broadcast would not improve 
FOTA reception in DC.

> We went through that one ad nauseam too. That's the MVPDs looking for long 
> term survival. Not the content owner looking to maximize their viewership. 
> Content owners have no reason to swear unending loyalty to the existing set 
> of MVPDs, as their only way to get this Internet viewership.

Survival? Perhaps. 

I prefer to look at this as the ability for the MVPDs to enhance the value of a 
monthly subscription that is already too expensive, by enabling the content you 
are paying for to be viewed on mobile devices. It's not just for wireless 
broadband; most of these Apps are used on tablets pulling bits from from wired 
networks via WiFi. The TV in the kids room is rapidly becoming a tablet that 
can be used for MANY Apps.

> Craig, again, no proof for your claims. You need to show numbers that prove 
> that a dense mesh of towers, hundreds of them for a reasonable sized market, 
> even if small towers, costs less than the big stick (often shared among 
> several broadcasters). If you can show that, then OTA broadcasters w/should 
> have been making the transitions long ago.

I'll leave that exercise to folks like Mark Aitken. 

I'll just add that broadcasters can leverage both their own existing 
infrastructure and that of the telcos, who for the most part lease their tower 

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